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The Man Who Ate Too Much

The Life of James Beard

John Birdsall



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06 November 2020
After World War II, a newly affluent United States reached for its own gourmet culture, one at ease with the French international style of Escoffier, but also distinctly American. Enter James Beard, authority on cooking and eating, his larger-than-life presence and collection of whimsical bow ties synonymous with the nation's food for decades, even after his death in 1985.

In the first biography of Beard in twenty-five years, acclaimed writer John Birdsall argues that Beard's struggles as a closeted gay man directly influenced his creation of an American cuisine. Starting in the 1920s, Beard escaped loneliness and banishment by traveling abroad to places where people ate for pleasure, not utility, and found acceptance at home by crafting an American ethos of food likewise built on passion and delight. Informed by never-before-tapped correspondence and lush with details of a golden age of home cooking, The Man Who Ate Too Much is a commanding portrait of a towering figure who still represents the best in food.
Imprint:   Norton
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 244mm,  Width: 163mm,  Spine: 36mm
Weight:   816g
ISBN:   9780393635713
ISBN 10:   0393635716
Pages:   464
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

John Birdsall is a two-time James Beard Award-winning author, a former food critic, and longtime restaurant cook. He is the coauthor of a cookbook, Hawker Fare, with James Syhabout. He lives in Tucson.

Reviews for The Man Who Ate Too Much: The Life of James Beard

Birdsall's narrative offers a tangy portrait of the backstabbing world of post-WWII food writing along with vivid, novelistic evocations of Beard's flavor experiences...The result is a rich, entertaining account of an essential tastemaker. It is fitting that John Birdsall should give this impossibly rich tribute to the gay father of modern American food culture, revealing it's not the food but it's the ingredients within that make the cook a legend. Savoir faire, shade, dish, yearning, hunger and creative fire made the great James Beard and this joy of a biography possible and delectable. Indispensable and delectable queer food history at its finest.--Michael W. Twitty, James Beard award-winning author of The Cooking Gene John Birdsall captures the enigmatic Mr. Beard in his well-researched biography, delving deeply into the complex life of the man who forever will be recognized as one of the pioneers of American cooking. A remarkable book about a legend who was held back by the boundaries of the past, but was profoundly ahead of his time in so many other ways.--David Lebovits, author of My Paris Kitchen and Drinking French The author of the groundbreaking article, 'America, Your Food Is So Gay, ' turns a sharp but sympathetic eye on the carefully closeted food writer who celebrated the glories of homegrown ingredients and down-home cooking decades before they were fashionable.... A thoughtful appreciation of a central figure in the story of American food culture.

  • Short-listed for Lambda Literary Award 2021
  • Short-listed for Publishing Triangle Award 2021

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